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Prime Minister denied ownership in PNG shipping company

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 19, 2008) - Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare could have breached the Leadership Code if what his daughter and press secretary said is true, Deputy Opposition Leader Bart Philemon said yesterday.

Referring the controversy over the Prime Minister’s single shareholding in the ship safety certification company Pacific Register of Ships Ltd (PRS), the Lae MP said parliamentarians’ failure to disclose their personal shares was a breach of the Leadership Code.

"If Ms. Somare is saying that her father had not disclosed his ownership of shares in PRS Ltd because it was personal -- that is a breach of the Leadership Code," he said.

If Cabinet did authorize Sir Michael to hold the share in trust for the State, Mr. Philemon said the decision that legitimized his shareholding should be made public.

"If Sir Michael Somare holds the share in trust for the state, the Government needs to produce the National Executive Council decision that legitimizes the state’s participation in Pacific Register of Ships Ltd," he said.

Philemon said he was dismayed at suggestions Sir Michael is exempted from disclosing his personal shares to the Ombuds-man Commission. He said he was also surprised at Sir Michael’s statement in Parliament that the Morobe provincial government had shares in the controversial company.

Referring to the Sir Michael’s comments to Parliament early this month denying his shareholding in PRS, Philemon said the veteran politician lied to Parliament about his and five provincial governments’ shareholding in the company.

"But whether it is a personal share or a share held in trust, the fact of the matter is that Hansard -- the official record of the proceedings of Parliament on Wednesday, February 6, 2008 -- shows that Sir Michael lied on the floor of Parliament. We passed the Morobe provincial government (budget) recently and there were no funds set aside for shareholding in Pacific Register of Ships or even in the company that operates Lae Express. Enough is enough. It is time for the Prime Minister to start telling the truth," Philemon said.

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